Maryland organizer Tiffany Flowers and her boyfriend Alan Hanson entered the Regal Cinemas Majestic Stadium 20 theater in Silver Spring, Maryland expecting to enjoy a showing of the highly anticipated Lee Daniel’s The Butler. Instead, they were greeted by police officers and armed guards who maintained a presence inside of the theater for the duration of the film.
Flowers began tweeting about her experience early Sunday morning, bringing the racial profiling to the attention of Oprah Winfrey, who stars in the film, as well as Regal Cinemas.
Film-maker and distributor Ava Duvernay (Say Yes, Middle of Nowhere) put some Hollywood weight behind Flowers’ mobilization efforts by offering to provide her with corporate contacts for Regal Cinemas.
According to Flowers, she spoke with the manager of the cinema, who informed her that they always have heightened security when they expect large openings for films. When the manager was asked by Flowers which other movies had warranted armed security, he allegedly said, “Harry Potter.”
The Butler, which stars Forest Whitaker as a longtime White House butler Eugene Allen, who served under eight U.S presidents, debuted at the number one spot over the weekend, raking in approximately $25 million, according to studio estimates.
Russ Nunley, a spokesman for Regal Cinemas, issued the following statement explaining their version of events:
Regal Entertainment Group routinely employs security personnel to ensure the safety all of our guests and staff. When a theatre experiences sold out showings of any feature, security will assist with crowd control and guest assistance throughout the facility, including auditoriums.
This weekend our Majestic theatre experienced a tremendous guest response to the feature “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” such that additional showtimes were added to meet our guests’ demands.
At no time did local management receive any guest complaints or concerns about our security or staff, who worked diligently to meet all of our guests’ needs.
To the extent any guests were disappointed with their experience, we welcome the opportunity to address their concerns and provide them the best entertainment experience possible in their future visits to our theatres.
Since Flowers began tweeting, her story has been picked up by local stations in the DC area as well as ABC 7 and social media supporters are calling for a boycott of the Regal Cinema in Silver Springs.